Why how-to posts are one of the most powerful blog posts you can ever write

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If we told you that there’s one kind of post you’d publish on your blog and readers will keep coming for more what will you do? What if we said this kind of post fits into any niche; isn’t that much better? 

“How to” posts are one of the most efficient ways to communicate with your readers. Everyone has a need and is seeking solutions. If you dedicate your blog posts to solving a particular need, your readers will grow steadily.   

Think about it. Why do we go to the web? Apart from going to find out the latest in film, football and to connect with friends, we go to the internet to learn. That’s why before you finish typing, ‘how do I…’ on Google several options pop up. Many people are seeking answers. If your blog provides a step by step on how to solve their problems they’d become a regular on your blog. Pick a topic that interests you and consistently dish out solutions to issues under that topic.  

How-to’s and tutorials establish your credibility and expertise. Use them well. 

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#GrammarSeries – You’ve made this mistake at least once

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When you talk about brands what do you refer to them as? Plural or Singular? 

Let’s make this easy. In grammar it is wrong to refer to a brand or an entity as ‘they’. A business is not plural. As a result you should refer to it as ‘it’ and not ‘they.’

Look at this;

To keep up with their diverse clients, Bird Air re-branded their airports in 2011

We hope you can see the issue? 

To keep up with its diverse clients, Bird Air re-branded its airports in 2011

The confusion is understandable. In English, we don’t identify a brand or an entity as “he” or “she” — so “they” seems to make more sense but it doesn’t.

It might seem a little strange at first, but once you start correctly referring to a brand or entity as “it,” the phrasing will sound much more natural than “they.”

It is never too late to start blogging

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You really want to start your blog but you are afraid it’s too late. There are so many, probably too many, bloggers out there. “Why add to the number,” you keep thinking. We do not agree with you. 

Although we won’t deny that there are so many bloggers already in the blogspehere, this has absolutely nothing to do with your authentic and distinct belief that you have something to offer to an audience special to you. There is an infinity of niches that we doubt there will ever be a time when there will be no more opportunities for a new blogger. 

Are you worried that everything’s already been done? Well, people have been afraid of that for decades, and it doesn’t stop new blogs from emerging.  Every topic can be broken down into hundreds of sub-topics, and each of those subtopics can be broken down into potential target audiences.

You also need to realize that content audiences are consistently growing over time. More users are introduced to the internet, the internet becomes more and more accessible (such as with public Wi-Fi and mobile devices), and blogs become even more popular. The result is an ever-growing pool of potential readers that is currently showing no signs of slowing down.

We recently read a post from Christopher Foster a 79 years old man who recently  started blogging! You heard that right, he is 79  years old and he just started blogging, now tell us what is your excuse? 

#GrammarSeries – When to use ‘due to’ and ‘because’

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Hello Grammar lovers! We are here to share something new with you. We hope you are just as interested as we are. 

Today we are talking about the correct way to use ‘due to’ and ‘because’ in a sentence. 

There’s a traditional way and a rebel way. The traditional view is that you should use “due to” only as an adjective, usually following the verb “to be”

Look at this example, if you say, “The cancellation was due to rain,” the words “due to” modify “cancellation.

That sentence is a bit stilted, but it fits the traditionalist rule.

If you wanted to be more casual, you could say, “It was canceled because of rain.” You are however not allowed to say, “It was canceled due to rain” because “due to” doesn’t have anything to modify. It’s acting like a preposition in that sentence, and purists argue that “due to” is an adjective; it shouldn’t be a compound preposition.

We hope this explains it properly. Until next time remember to keep your grammar in check. 

#WordOfTheDay- Guess what snow means

Network your way to fast help.

Hey Sparkle Writers. Ready for today’s #WordOfTheDay? We know you think we made a mistake because of the word we highlighted in the topic but no we did not. 

Today’s word is snow. 

Do you have any idea what it means? Snow is a verb that means to mislead or charm someone with elaborate and insincere words. Who would have guessed that snow meant something different from what we all know.

Look at these examples

Politicians know how to snow the public into believing what they say. 

 

Don’t let people snow you into just any kind of investment. 

Now that you know what it means, use the word appropriately. 

#WriterSpotlight – “You would never improve if you want to stay in your cocoon of safety.” Unyime Ivy King

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We read Unyime Ivy King’s interview and we were blown away by the amount of depth one person can offer. If you are looking to publish a book soon her advice on publishing and distributing your books will come in handy. 

Sparkle Writers, enjoy Unyime’s insightful interview with us.

Hello Unyime please introduce yourself.

I am a passionate God lover and an anointed scribe who sees my writing as an important calling and a ministry which enables me to  function as an influencer and change agent in my society. I am author and publisher, wife of one husband and mother of four. I am a passionate advocate for a return to positive family values using the social media platform actively to express my  passion and beliefs, because I believe that the family is an important unit of society which helps to transmit culture between generations, and that stable societies, emerge from strong, stable and positive family experiences. I do not only write for leisure, I see it as a calling to serve. 

I also am the MD of HTT Communications, a communications/publishing firm and ED Communications at Protection Plus Services Ltd, the parent company which is co-owned by my husband and me. Recently, I unveiled my not for profit organisation- SOW&G (The Save Our Women and Girls Foundation), which is poised to provide mentorship for women and girls, support credible NGOs and train women and girls in the area of skills acquisition. This we had started informally last year, before the inauguration. We were able to train over 110 women in 5 different skills areas, hence empowering them to be economically viable and productive citizens of their society. We are planning a second and third editions of that training. These are my areas of passion. I happen to be a UN Volunteer on the platform of the International Association of World Peace Advocates (IAWPA) and also an ambassador of the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations (NASPRI).

How long have you been writing for and what have you learnt in these years?  

I started writing as a young girl in primary school. My siblings and I were exposed to books really early in life and the interest caught on. Sadly enough the many stories I wrote on countless notepad were never published until my novel, Burning Hurt was published first by AuthorHouse UK in 2013 and I published a West African edition in 2014.  

One powerful thing I have learnt is that you get better at writing by writing. You can read others and learn, but your style is unique to you and your writing  voice, if you dare to use it, should be recognizable. It’s a function of consistency and exercise. 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I will never forget an incident that happened one holiday when I was a child in the primary school or elementary school as it was called. We had this dear uncle, my father’s older brother (he’s late now), at whose house we spent a lot of time. One day, his oldest son who was studying law at the time, and also happens to be my oldest paternal cousin, asked us all to gather for a mini concert. We had cousins who had come into Calabar from Lagos, including my siblings too. My cousin gave us different writing assignments and he would read each person’s write up out and grade. When he began to read my own, he paused and shook his head, and kept saying, “Unyime Ikpe” (my maiden name) and kept shaking his head, while commending my writing. That is one memory I have kept and cherished long after I have forgotten what topic I wrote about, because it warms my heart, just remembering. 

It sort of opened my eyes to the realization that I could write, and that words have power. I saw the effect of what I’d written on the people gathered there. That spurred me on. 

Where do you get inspiration from?

I get inspired by everything, especially intelligent conversations with others, and the things happening around me in society. Because my interest is more about issues that have to do with family, any family related incident is a trigger for me – family relationship dynamics, relationships generally, family values etc. Any experience or encounter could trigger an urge to write. For instance, a failed relationship story a friend shared with me while I was serving, provided the inspiration for my novel and the other books I’m working on, are motivated by family stories and life issues generally. 

 

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You are the author of ‘Burning hurt’. What inspired you to write this book?

Burning Hurt was inspired by the need to show the cause and effect of sowing wild oats – especially by the men – and also highlight the problems that arise from dysfunctional family relationships. The family is a miniature society and when it malfunctions, society malfunctions too. I wanted the story of Burning Hurt to capture the fact that for every action we take or every choice we make, there is a corresponding consequence or consequences. 

What salient lessons did publishing a book (especially in Nigeria) teach you ?

I learnt that one really has to be prepared to work extra hard because the distribution channels for marketing one’s book are really not there and as an author you need to push your work or nobody will do it for you. 

Putting one’s book in a bookshop does not really work because it’s a very slow process. But you just have to do it for the physical presence. Direct sales is a better method for marketing and of course, leveraging on the free social media platforms as much as possible. 

Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies?

I love to experiment with dishes, watch good movies (I love thrillers and epic movies), travel. 

Some write for fortune, others for fame, why do you write?

I write because I see my writing as a personal ministry to my society. I want to use my words to influence my world positively, one person per time. If in the process of doing that, fame and fortune come, I’d gladly embrace them because I have some understanding that keeps me firmly grounded. I do not get carried away. 

Another lesson is that you have to monitor the whole process 100% if you do not want to see errors that would make your skin crawl. Sometimes you put in your best to push the process, but the final product may end up a disappointment. It’s tedious, really. 

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

My ultimate dream is to spread the influence of my writing beyond the shores of this country such that my words are not only affecting people in my country, but also reaches across borders to affect someone who needs to read me. I also want to know that at the end of my life, I said all I was supposed to say. 

 

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How has your writing evolved over the years, did you do anything specific to make improvements? 

When I look at some of the things I wrote many years back, which I was praised for, to the things I write now, I realize that I have come a long way. Reading is a childhood love, which I still hold on to, and one way that has helped my writing improve. 

I read good books by established and credible writers especially the works of veterans like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Flora Nwapa and of course contemporary writers like Chimamanda Adichie. I do my best to read articles and on social media follow handles that share things about good writing or what makes a good writer. I use Google well as a study tool too. 

Asides that, I registered for some programs at the School of Media and Communication of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, called Media Enterprises (CME) and Advanced Writing and reporting skills (AWARES). Part of the course module involved creative writing and this helped me a lot. I still plan to go back to do more programs that would help with my writing. 

Do you Google yourself? Please tell us why

I do because I want to see what kind of digital prints I have left and also to see what the progress has been over time. I don’t compare myself with anyone because the Bible, which is my manual for life, makes me understand that it’s unwise to do so. Instead I compare myself with my purpose. When I Google me, I can see a trail of what I have done and also see how I can keep getting better at being me. 

What’s your advice to writers who have not shared their work with the world because they are scared of what people will say?

I would repeat the words of a very wise man, who happens to be my husband, “The only way to get out of trouble, is to enter it.” 

I would advise them, “Do not be scared to share because someone out there needs that information you are hoarding.”  You would never improve if you want to stay in your cocoon of safety. Talk to a writer you admire, who is doing what you wish you could and get counsel, get mentorship. Even if they are not within reach, buy their books and read their thoughts, read articles they’ve shared and so on. There’s so much potential in you. Bin the fear and step into the waters with both feet. You will figure a way out if it looks like you are drowning. If you never dare to try, you’d never know how far you can go, or what you are capable of doing. 

 

You’re not weird…you’re a writer!

Do you ever see writing as a burden? Why couldn’t you have been given any other gift; something simpler perhaps? You see, it’s not as if being a writer is not exciting. It is. It’s just that it comes with certain peculiarities that may make you seem weird among the so called ‘normal’ people.

Here’s what we mean. A typical writer tends to be deep; introspective more often than not. We think a lot and are often stuck in our heads. It’s not that we are anti-social (it can be argued that some of us are), we just tend to reflect a lot. This is what allows our creative juices to flow. How can we come up with those though-provoking articles, if we lack the ability to step back and reflect?

Depending on the social circle, a writer may be perceived as being boring. Can you blame people? When they want to engage in light-headed conversations, the writer wants to go on the deep path. If they are in the mood, they can be the life of the party. If they are not, you might as well have not invited them out because they may just sit still and observe.

The thing is, when a writer does this, he doesn’t consider himself as being anti-social. He’s observing what going on and might as well be formulating the basis for his next though-provoking piece. 

For a writer, inspiration can come from anywhere. While walking down the street or having a conversation with your favourite cab driver. You never know what will cause that light bulb in your head to go on so you have to be open to everything.

Unfortunately, unlike music artists, writers don’t have the privilege of making two-syllable words to become the trend of the day. You know how musicians sing things like ‘doro’, ‘mama eh’ and the like and it’s ok? Well we can’t do that; at least serious writers can’t. We need to engage our readers and even help some escape reality. If you don’t have inspired words, you won’t be able to achieve this.

No one ever understands what you are doing as a writer. Asides from calling you weird, only very few people consider it to be an actual job. The conversation is usually weird;

What do you do?
I’m a writer.
Oh ok. So what do you do to earn money?
*confused look*

Have you ever had this kind of conversation> Many writers have. Again, we don’t blame such people. Being a writer in Nigeria doesn’t pay as much as it does abroad. Saying that you are a writer alone makes you look jobless and will definitely earn you a long speech from parents who are wondering whether this is what they actually sent you to school for. To become a jobless writer. Isn’t that exciting?

Nonetheless, being a writer sis such a priceless gift. Nothing compares to it. If writing is what you are passionate about please, don’t be ashamed of it. People may not understand your gift; that’s not your problem. Just stick to what you do best and you will the reap fruits. The people who look at you funny will be the same people who will want a share of your success when it comes – when your bestseller can be found on bookshelves across the nation. 

Don’t abandon your dream for anybody. It’s never worth it.

How to re-start an abandoned writing project

 

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Do you have several blogs abandoned on the internet simply because you got tired? Or are you one of those people who have several uncompleted stories stored on your computer?

Most writers go through this issue. It’s almost like we never get to complete some projects.

You may have a ton of great ideas but your motivation seems to vanish almost immediately you start the project. While there’s nothing wrong with having great ideas, you’ve got to remember that no one will read an uncompleted story or book.  No matter how lofty your writing dreams are you must finish what you start to make them come true.

Let’s show you how.

Stop starting new projects

This may not sound so good but it’s the truth. You already have a lot of unfinished projects why do you want to start something new? It is important to clear the backlog. Adding something new will only make things worse. Say no to new projects (for now).

Review all unfinished projects

Go back and review all your unfinished projects. You probably will discover much more than you thought existed. Once you gather all your unfinished work analyze them. Which ones do you want to continue with and which story should never have begun? Throw out everything you need to.

Decide what you’ll focus on

Now that you’ve analyzed what you want to keep, decide what project you will focus on presently and what has to wait. Don’t try to write your book, continue with your blog, complete your e-book, all at the same time. You may get stuck.

Become accountable

This exercise doesn’t mean you won’t feel like giving up on some of these projects again but the key is to become accountable to yourself. Set timelines to finish projects and follow through with them.

We hope this helps you finish those abandoned projects.

#GrammarSeries – Learn the correct order of adjectives

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Hey Sparkle Writers, it’s time for another grammar lesson and today, it’s all about the correct order of adjectives.

Did you just squeeze your face wondering why The Sparkle Writer’s Hub is treating this topic that your secondary school English teacher taught? It’s because some of us still order our adjectives wrongly and believe it or not some others have never even heard of it before.

So let’s go straight to the point.

When adjectives are ordered wrongly, the sentence will sound disjointed. Something will just not click.

Look at this sentence.

I love that big old green really antique car that is always parked at the end of the street.

Does it sound right? Not so much.

So if  you have been writing sentences that look or sound like this one, things are about to change.

This is how your adjective should be ordered.

Determiner – Quantity or number – Quality or opinion – Size – Shape – Colour- Proper adjective – Purpose/ Qualifier- Noun.

N.B – Determiners are ‘A, An, The.’

Now let’s correct the previous sentence

I love that really old big green antique car that always parked at the end of the street.

Until next week Tuesday, remember to keep your grammar in check.